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Green cards, visas, and general citizenship immigrant processes to become a lawful permanent resident and immigrate are filled with paperwork, tense waiting periods, and some of the worst stress you’ll likely ever face. After all, your US citizenship, ability to work, and even access to bank accounts, credit ratings, and more falls solely on your approval. Immigration law is complex, and to get a Green Card and avoid any sort of deportation even upon having to renew it, it's important to always pay attention to your visa status and card application, and make sure to fill out all the USCIS forms.
From the moment you fill your initial Form I‑485, secure your slot in the green card lottery to become a green card holder, look for naturalization, or complete your immigrant visa interview with a consular, you’ll likely struggle to think about anything else except having permanent residence or an adjustment of status. In fact, if you’re in any talks with the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), you’ll inevitably be desperate to hear something in regards to permanent resident status.
Most often, that something comes in the form of the I797. The moment you see that telltale envelope, you’ll likely rush to open it. The trouble is that, if you don’t first take your time to understand the different types of form I797 that you stand to receive, it may be tricky for you understand what that notice is telling you. That can be incredibly frustrating, and it’s something we’re going to help you overcome by considering the differences between forms i797a i797b i797c i797d i797e and i797f.
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Covering the Basics: What is Form I797?
If you’re still in the early stages of your application (whatever that may be), you’re likely scratching your head right now and wondering what on earth a form I797 is in the first place. As such, this makes for the ideal starting point in our exploration.
Quite simply, any form I797 is a notice of action issued by the USCIS to communicate the details of your petition, including its progress, additional requirements, etc. The form will typically arrive around 2-3 weeks after application and is nothing more than a courtesy update in most instances. In the majority of cases (we’ll discuss the exception a little later), you can’t start traveling with this piece of paper alone.
Still, the full range of form I797s you can expect to receive do cover a variety of essential application points. This alone can put your mind at ease, especially when paired with the thirteen digit code that will be incorporated so that you can track your application online and put an end to the waiting at last.
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Breaking Down the Various I797 Forms
There’s no such thing as a one-size-fits-all form I797. Instead, these forms are usually classed as an I797a-f. Each unique classification communicates a different detail about your case and requires different or no action on your part.
As such, knowing the variations and which form you’ve received is vital for your general peace of mind. There's no question that becoming a U.S. citizen is a lengthy process, so knowing as much as you know about USCIS appointments (InfoPass), dealing with immigration lawyers, signing up for a biometrics appointment, dealing with an expire green card and more is essential to not only gaining citizenship but fighting off expiration at renewal time.
The real question, therefore, is what exactly does your unique form I797 mean?
Issued only to foreign nationals admitted to the US and attempting to change their status, the form I797A contains all standard I797 information, including the aforementioned thirteen-digit code, but also acts as a replacement for the Form I-94 arrival and departure record of and from your nationality.
You can expect to receive an I797B if you’re a foreign national who has submitted form I-140 to petition as an alien worker for permanent residency status. Typically an I797B means the USCIS office has approved your petition, but not necessarily your request to extend your US stay. Applicants can, therefore, receive this either from within the US or from their country of residence.
If you are applying from within the US and your stay is nearing an end, you may need to return home to have your passport stamped by the US embassy in your country of residence after receiving an I797B. This process can include an interview in which you’ll need to supply relevant documentation to support your request.
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The form I797C is, by far, the most common type of I797, and will detail important information. Most crucially, you’ll receive this form to let you know whether your application has been rejected or approved.
Other notifications included with a form 1797C can consist of confirmation of payments, reopening a case, or scheduling interviews. As such, reading this notification thoroughly and making sure to store in a safe place is vital for preventing any further delays or setbacks in your case.
In instances where work applications are concerned, an I797C form will be sent straight to your employer, who will keep it in your reference file for the duration of your employment.
The I797D form has to be the most keenly awaited of all for near enough every application. That’s because this is the form that includes benefits cards of various types, including all-important green cards, employment authorization documents, and more.
In the majority of cases, the I797D will be the last communication you have with USCIS about your application itself, making this a happy goal to work towards indeed.
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From highs to lows, the I797E is perhaps the most dreaded, as it includes a call for further evidence of your right to apply/gain citizenship. The form will outline the intricacies of your case and any additional evidence required, but it’s important to remember that this in itself is no indication of your application progress.
Most commonly, form I797E only becomes necessary when applicants fail to supply all required supporting documentation.
Unlike all other I797 forms mentioned, a form I797F is not a notification. Instead, this is a unique kind of travel permits that allow applicants to travel overseas temporarily. The form I797F can also be given to overseas applicants who wish to travel to the US while awaiting approval for a prior application.
Do note that you will typically need secondary proof of identification when traveling this way, namely social security card, birth certificate, etc. and perhaps a a travel document or more.
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Understanding the I797 Differences
The chances are that, having looked at each form individually, some of the main differences are already evident to you. Still, some of the primary considerations to keep in mind when you finally receive your long-awaited I797 form include variations such as the following.
Your status/living situation at the time will often come into play here. For instance, a form I797A will only ever be valid to those already living within the US, while both I797B and i797F can both be relevant for even applications outside of the US itself.
The purpose of your I797, and thus the action you need to take, is also guaranteed to vary. Of course, given that the majority of these forms are notices of action, you most often won’t need to do anything except perhaps check your application status online. That said, recipients of I797B and i797E may need to take immediate action. Equally, the action is inherent with form I797F.
Most often, a form I797 includes private application information that should only ever arrive straight at your provided address. It will also be your responsibility to keep this correspondence safe. The only exception to this rule is in the case of form I797C when your form will arrive directly with an employer who will store this evidence for you.
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I797 Forms are Simpler than You Think
Given how many forms you’ve been dealing with recently, these classifications may well have your head spinning, but don’t let that stress you out. For the most part, the purpose of your form I797 will be evident the moment you open that envelope. Your rights and responsibilities in regard to immigration laws start with that envelope, and qualifying lawfully as a resident, whether naturalized or not, to reside in the U.S. is a wonderful moment.
What’s more, you really shouldn’t bother yourself with I797 variations that will never be valid to your case. Instead, keep things simple by focusing on the forms you’re liable to receive and remember that, in all their forms, I797s typically represent long-awaited progress.